Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was browsing a used bookstore in 1984 when he discovered a worn copy of The Phantom of the Opera, an out-of-print book by Gaston Leroux. He was inspired to write a Broadway musical about the haunting love story…and the rest is history!
Here are 39 interesting facts about the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of The Phantom of the Opera .
- Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most popular works of entertainment of all time, in any medium, and its popularity continues to grow throughout the world.
2. It is estimated that Phantom has been seen by more than 140 million people, and the total worldwide gross is now in excess of $6 billion.
3. The show has won over 70 major theatre awards including three Olivier Awards, an Evening Standard Award, and seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, seven Drama Desk Awards and three Outer Critic Circle Awards.
4. The Phantom of the Opera opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London on 27th September 1986, and at the Majestic Theatre in New York on 9th January 1988.
5. The Phantom of the Opera became Broadway’s longest running show ever when it overtook the record set by Cats with its 7,486th performance on January 6th 2006. It is the only Broadway show ever to celebrate anniversaries through 18 to 25 years.
6. The West End production played its 10,000th performance on 23 October 2010.
7. The Broadway production played its 10,000th performance on 11th February 2012.
8. The box-office revenues are higher than any other film or stage play in history – including Titanic, ET and Star Wars.
9. The Phantom of the Opera has been produced in 166 cities, in 30 countries around the world, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and The United States.
10. Playing worldwide it has been translated into no fewer than 17 languages including English, French, German, Japanese, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Castilian, Hungarian, Dutch, Korean, Portuguese and Mexican Spanish.
11. The original cast album of The Phantom of the Opera was the first in British musical history to enter the music charts at number 1.
12. Album sales, including original cast recording, foreign language recordings, studio recordings and the film soundtrack now exceed 40 million.
13. The cast album has gone 6 times platinum in the US, twice platinum in the UK, 9 times platinum in German, 4 times platinum in the Netherlands, 11 times platinum in Korea and 31 times platinum in Taiwan.
14. Joel Schumacher directed a big screen version of the show which was released worldwide at the end of 2004. It starred Gerard Butler as The Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Patrick Wilson as Raoul and Minnie Driver as Carlotta.
15. ‘Learn to Be Lonely’, a new song written for the movie, was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2005 Oscars. Beyonce performed the song at the ceremony.
16. Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular opened in a purpose built theatre at the Venetian Resort Hotel on 24th June 2006. The production cost $75 million, making the new 95-minute version the most expensive musical extravaganza of all time.
17. The dazzling replica of the Paris Opera House chandelier is made up of 6,000 beads consisting of 35 beads to each string. It is three metres wide and weighs one ton. The touring version falls at two and a half metres per second. The original version was built by five people in four weeks.
18. The Phantom’s make-up takes two hours to put on and 30 minutes to take off. The face is moisturized, closely shaved and the prosthetics are fitted, setting immediately, before two wigs, two radio mics and two contact lenses (one white and one clouded) are placed. Applying the Phantom’s makeup initially took four hours—now, it’s down to less than 30 minutes.
19. 2,230 metres of fabric are used for the drapes, 900 of them specially dyed. The tasseled fringes measure 226 metres. They are made up of 250 kilos of dyed wool interwoven with 5,000 wooden beads imported from India. Each one is handmade and combed through with an Afro comb.
20. There are 130 cast, crew and orchestra members directly involved in each performance.
21. Each performance has 230 costumes, 14 dressers, 120 automated cues, 22 scene changes, 281 candles and uses 250 kg of dry ice and 10 fog and smoke machines.
22. The touring production takes 27 articulated lorries to transfer the set between theatres.
23. Early Phantom rehearsals in London included animatronic rats, a white horse and real doves flying through the theater—these ideas were scrapped before previews began.
24. Director Hal Prince was briefly fired from the original London production, but was rehired again before rehearsals began. He went on to win a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.
25. Steve Harley was originally asked to play the Phantom in London (they even recorded a music video!), but the creative team ultimately decided to eliminate the Phantom’s rock edge and cast Michael Crawford instead.
26. When Lloyd Webber approached him to audition for Phantom, Michael Crawford assumed he was auditioning for the part of Raoul. He spent a year studying Nelson Eddy’s performance in the 1943 film adaptation before he discovered that Steve Barton had already been cast in the role.
27. The Broadway premiere of Phantom cost a then-record-setting $8 million to produce.
28. Lloyd Webber was so nervous about Phantom’s premiere that he couldn’t attend the performance. Producer Cameron Mackintosh had to bring him back to the theatre for the curtain call.
29. Phantom won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Crawford) and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Judy Kaye, now starring in Nice Work If You Can Get It).
30. Twelve actors have played the Phantom on Broadway: Michael Crawford, Timothy Nolen, Chris Groenendaal, Steve Barton, Kevin Gray, Mark Jacoby, Marcus Lovett, Davis Gaines, Thomas James O’Leary, Howard McGillin, John Cudia, Jeff Keller, Ted Keegan, Brad Little, Gary Mauer and Hugh Panaro.
31. Howard McGillin, who starred in Phantom on Broadway for more than 10 years, holds the title of the world’s longest-running Phantom.
32. The Phantom wears contact lenses—one blue and one clouded.
33. The Phantom’s latex facial prosthetics used in the Broadway production are shipped from London.
34. Both Crawford and Panaro have accidentally gotten their lip prosthetics stuck to Christine while kissing her.
35. Makeup artist Thelma Pollard has been with Phantom since the show opened on Broadway in 1988.
36. The “Masquerade” scene uses life-sized mannequins to make the party crowd seem larger.
37. Phantom uses more than 500 pounds of dry ice and 10 fog and smoke machines in each performance.
38. Original Phantom cast member George Lee Andrews holds the Guinness World Record for the most performances in the same Broadway show—after 9,382 performances, he retired from Phantom in August 2011.
39. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical “Phantom of the Opera” was inspired by Ken Hill’s 1976 musical version of the same name. Hill’s version is credited as the first Phantom musical and was a success. Sarah Brightman, who later created the role of Christine in Webber’s version, was famously asked to play the role of Christine in Hill’s 1984 revival but turned down the offer. Webber, who was then married to Brightman, had actually seen Hill’s show and asked Hill to collaborate Phantom on a larger scale for the Victoria Palace Theatre in the West End; eventually Webber pursued the musical without Hill. Hill and Webber had previously worked together on a revival of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”.